Irving College (TENN.) – In this small rural Warren County town just outside McMinnville, Tenn., Neal Moffitt Anthony and his partner Michael Duncan have gathered their closest friends to begin cleaning up the hate-based messages left spray painted on his home.
At the same time, they are left wondering why they can’t live a peaceful life with their fellow Irving College residents.
Carl Slaughter has been a close friend of Anthony for “going on 10 years.” While Slaughter is straight, he considers himself to be open-minded. He is shocked when he sees what fellow citizens in this close-knit community have done to his friend.
“This community is just full of a bunch of older people who can’t accept gays or lesbians or really anyone other than who they want to live here,” Slaughter said. “We’re not living back in 1851. But they are so close-knit here.”
It could be that Anthony’s pride is one of the things that his neighbors can’t accept. He and his partner are living as openly gay men in one of Tennessee’s rural farming communities. They do not hide who they are. Last year Anthony proudly entered his pickup truck in Nashville’s annual pride parade and drove through McMinnville proudly displaying the multi-colored pride flag on his way home from the annual celebration.
“I got a lot of jeers and people yelling at me,” Anthony said. “But I also had people who just waved and gave me thumbs up.”
Slaughter says the ordeal that Anthony and his partner have been through is something no one should suffer.
“It makes me sick,” Slaughter explained. “A lot of the neighbors know who did this. Neal is an excellent person. He does nothing to bother anyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pup tent, or a mansion like Neal’s. People have no reason to destroy someone’s property. A person is a person.”
Slaughter, who works as a self-employed contractor, added that the spray painting of the hateful messages shows that the community is conflicted and can’t seem to accept someone who is different.
He praised the work of Detective James Ramsey, Jr., with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
“They have really put an all-out effort in this,” Slaughter said. “The sheriff’s office has been very helpful to Neal and very cooperative.”